Local blood banks face summer shortage

BY ANNA EGELAND | JUNE 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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As summer heats up, local blood banks are worried about running dry.

Paula Dayton, the donor-recruitment coordinator for the DeGowin Blood Center, said that while donations drop in summer months, the blood use never decreases.

Dayton said DeGowin relies quite heavily on the student population. On-campus blood drives account for 30 percent of the blood collected on mobile sites and 22 percent of the whole blood collected from both mobile and fixed sites, Dayton said.

"Well, I think that there is an increased call for blood donations in the summer," she said, and many people are so busy with summer vacation that it's not as convenient to donate blood.

"There is no substitute for donated blood; there is always a need," she said.

Kirby Winn, the director of public relations for the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, said the center is in the midst of a summer lull.

"We see about 20 percent fewer donors throughout the summer," he said.

Winn attributes this to the fact that many school blood drives are not an option during the summer months.

"School is out — during the school year, we hold blood drives," he said. "We might see 100 to 200 donors at a high-school blood drive."

Winn said that the week of July 4 is a particularly challenging time to collect blood, especially when the holiday lands in the middle of the week — as it does this year.

The Mississippi Valley Center is trying to encourage donations by offering such incentives as T-shirts and a chance to win a $50 gas gift card to those who donate between Wednesday and July 7.

"The idea is … we want to thank donors for helping out," Winn said.

DeGowin also offers incentives for donors who participate in blood drives held at the IMU during freshman Orientation. Dayton said the "I bleed black and gold" T-shirts are often very exciting for first-time donors.

"We also see a lot of non-freshmen [at freshman Orientation blood drives] because it's convenient," she said.

While the blood drives at Orientation are not always a huge source of donations, Dayton said, they are important for sharing information about DeGowin with incoming students.

"We do that so students are aware that we're part of the university," she said. "All the blood that the University of Iowa DeGowin Blood Center collects goes to patients at the UI hospital."

Dayton said after the blood is donated, it gets put into the blood bank and undergoes testing for infectious diseases. Then the blood is processed and separated so two patients can benefit from that unit of whole blood.

Jonathan Sexton, the director of UI Orientation Services, said there have been blood drives at Orientation since before 2007.

"It's an opportunity to give blood and to start off serving the community," he said. "It's always been a positive presence, and, in my mind, UIHC has always really appreciated it."

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